Why don't I ever meet rural people in tech? Contrarian strategies for America's small towns. Plus, the romance of stagnation.
An obvious first step to stimulate "rural genius" is to bring in reliable Gigabit Internet to these places. Comparing the Chisholm graph showing low enrollment rates to this county-by-county map of broadband speed (https://www.theverge.com/22418074/broadband-gap-america-map-county-microsoft-data) shows a direct correlation between Internet speed and "genius." The difference between 10-15mbps and 1Gb is significant and usually ignored ("well at least they have Internet!"). But before the Internet, people in rural areas--like the Apollo 11 team and Marc Andreesen--had more or less the same access to the same books and media as others in big cities. With the Internet, however, a person with 1Gb speed can access more knowledge, download media, and collaborate with others, all of which is nearly impossible with a <25 mbps Internet speed. Slower download speeds = slower learning.
the "rural communities are dying' talking point is actually misleading. when rural towns or communities grow, after a while they are reassigned to "urban" by the census takers whether or not they lose their rural character or not. that is why statistics show that rural america is dying-for instance, my hometown of sumter, south carolina, a cotton and soybean farming community whose richest residents are farmers-is considered urban on the census. not exactly fair i'd say. and i don't think its germane to say that the lack of rural workers in tech is down to the social beliefs of the places they come from. america is just a huge place, and the tech industry is located in like three places. why spend money and resources recruiting rural talent that's a thousand miles away when you could hire the son of a programmer who lives in san francisco for far less hassle? combine that with a not so warm attitude that tech people stereotypically have towards southerners and midwesterners, and there is a bit of a chilling effect that goes on.
this is an interesting and exciting topic. It seems the technology is available to make rural living more attractive than ever before. It also seems like technology is potentially making urban living more risky than ever before.
This is a very generalized version of rural America. Many people in rural America are making great strides to increase rural vitality while also preserving rural characteristics. Often, it's not that rural areas don't want to change, it's because they are not aware of the resources available and do not have the capacity to carry out these ideas. In return, large corporations move in and local economies are diluted. Subdvisions, that are out of the price range of most locals' budgets. drive people out or further into poverty. Supporting rural infrastructure and rural broadband access is a tangible way to improve the future of rural America.
"Romantic Stagnation believes that if we just hold on to what is as tight as we can, then decaying towns will somehow become great places to live and grow."
I think there's a flaw in the logic here. It's like trying to treat people with depression. In the mind of a therapist or a helping friend, you want to help the depressed person get better, and assume they do by default. But sometimes the depressed person doesn't want to get better themselves, and then, no matter how much energy or effort you put in, they won't get better until they decide that they want to get better.
We assume the romantic stagnation attitude has this end goal of making the town to be a place to live and grow, because who wouldn't want their town to be a better place, but some people actually don't share that view. They don't live in the past hoping that it leads to a greater future, a greater town, they just live in the past and have no interest in a town that's a better place to live and grow.
I think depression is a really apt metaphor here, because if we want to improve rural towns, we must recognize and address the psychological barriers holding people back/causing them to be in a fearful state (lack of future, job options, physical health, feeling isolated from the greater community, etc. basically Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a good place to start), and only after they're convinced that they want a better town, can we work on building a better town.
Interesting to note that the spread of remote work since lockdowns hasn't done much to reverse the dwindling rural population trend.